Tuesday, September 11, 2012

James Cameron's Populist Classic TITANIC Now Out On Blu ray

Having not seen it since its release in 1997, I had forgotten how damn long TITANIC is. I mean it’s an hour and forty minutes into James Cameron’s enormous money-making machine of a movie, which releases this week on Blu ray, before the ship even hits that infamous iceberg! 

Until then we have to wade through a set-up in which the historical background competes with the lame Leonardo Dicaprio/Kate Winslet love story, and that can be really tough going. 

Especially when the dialogue heavily appears to pander to teenage girls; take for instance this bit of Gloria Stuart’s (as the elder version of Winslet’s character) narration in the present-day wraparound: “It was a ship of dreams…to everyone else. To me it was a slave-ship, taking me back to America in chains. Outwardly, I was everything a well brought up girl should be. Inside, I was screaming.”

But the impressive scale of the film, happily obscures much of that ickiness. 

The almost full-scale replication of the ship makes for an astounding set, and there are many sweeping shots that show it off nicely. The history lesson embedded in the narrative also distracts from the sappy cheesiness of the star-crossed lovers scenario, but we all know that that scenario was what made the movie such a huge hit.

The Blu ray transfer looks fantastic, bringing out the shiny cinematography of Russell Carpenter which is undoubtedly his best work - though for a resume that includes SHALLOW HAL, MONSTER IN LAW, and a couple of Katherine Heigl films, that’s not saying much. I did find myself thinking that the lighting during the end scenes was unrealistic for the situation, but that's one of those things you can let slide with the ole 'eh - it's a movie' excuse.

Only a real cynic would deny that the “disaster related peril” (per the PG-13 disclaimer) that dominates the second half of “Titanic” - i.e. the ship sinking - is pretty spectacular stuff. It’s in those bombarding chaotic sequences that the film is able to truly bring together its themes of class divide, and depictions of the best and worst of humanity.

On an 1998 episode of Seinfeld that aired a few months after the release of TITANIC, George Constanza (Jason Alexander) tells Jerry that he just saw the movie and asks: “So that old woman...she’s just a liar, right?”

That nails what’s one of the most unsatisfying and frustrating aspects of the film: Why did that old woman throw the diamond, the “Heart of the Ocean” into the ocean at the end? Felt like a stupid selfish choice after Bill Paxton and his crew flew her to their Titanic-stationed salvage ship, and heard her tell her long detailed story, in hopes of finding that precious artifact, and she secretly discards the diamond when she’s finished. WTF?

Paxton tells the old lady’s granddaughter (Suzy Amis, who probably has 3-4 lines tops) that after three years of thinking of nothing but Titanic, he never really “got” it before. Well, that’s good because he’s sure not getting that diamond.

This new spiffy Blu ray of TITANIC, which follows the film’s 3D theatrical re-release, contains two and a half hours of new special features, in addition to the four hours that were previously available on DVD, so if you can’t get enough of TITANIC you are in for a treat. The bonus material includes 30 deleted scenes, 60 featurettes, and something called “Titanic: The Final Word With James Cameron,” that I bet isn’t his final word.

Interestingly, this week also brings the release of Bob Dylan’s 35th studio album, “Tempest,” which just happens to have an almost 14-minute track about the 1912 Titanic sinking. Dylan references the movie, name-drops DiCaprio, and describes the disaster in time to the Celtic country flavoring of his backing band.

Obviously, one hundred years later, folks are still making a fuss about the Titanic tragedy. Cameron uber successfully made the event into an event movie, that brought about years of backlash, but must be regarded as a populist classic. 

I'm sure Film buffs will still scoff at it, even when appreciating the excellent visuals of this exquisite new Blu ray edition, but I bet even they will admit that it’s much more preferable to our current TWILIGHT times, at least in the realm of teen romance epic wannabes.

More later...


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movies said...

One of the best movie ever, good thing it was already out on Blu ray so we can watch it anytime we want.